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PETERSBURG, Ky. (WDRB) -- On Tuesday, Feb. 4, popular science teacher Bill Nye, and Ken Ham, the founder of the Creation Museum, went head-to-head in a debate about the origins of the universe.
Nye, a proponent of evolutionary theory, and Ham, an advocate for young-earth creationism, locked horns over issues such as whether or not creationism should be taught in public school science classes, and how the concept of human evolution affects a student's beliefs about himself and his morality.
The debate took place at the Creation Museum, a center that is part-museum and part-amusement park, created to celebrate the biblical view of origins.
Ham argued that there is "a gross misinterpretation in our culture" that creationists can't be scientists. He then showed video statements from people in the scientific community who share a belief in the biblical account of creation, including Raymond Damadian, inventor of the MRI scanner, and Danny Faulkner, who has a Ph.D. in astronomy.
"It doesn't matter whether you're a creationist or an evolutionist," Ham argued. "You can be a great scientist."
He also said that there at the Creation Museum, "we make no apologies" for believing the biblical account.
Nye criticized the biblical model, contrasting what Creationists believe with what "those on the outside" -- meaning mainstream scientists in his view -- have chosen to accept.
"There are billions of people who are deeply religious," Nye said, adding that these same people "do not embrace" the concept of a literal six-day creation.
"Mr. Ham and his followers have this remarkable view of a worldwide flood," Nye said. "I ask us all: is that really reasonable?"
For his part, Ham later countered that some scientists now believe that a "global flood" took place on the planet Mars.
Although he readily acknowledged that science demonstrates that species have undergone various changes over lengthy periods of time, Ham pointed out what he called a lack of scientific evidence to support changes in "kinds" of creatures. To support his claim, he pointed out that there had been changes between species of dog, but that there was no evidence to document the transition of a dog from a completely different type of animal.
Nye countered that evidence such as tree rings and ice core samples prove that the earth is much older than 6,000 years. He also took issue with Ham's belief in a literal ark built by Noah, as described in the Genesis account. Nye said that if the Bible is to be believed, and the ark carried two representatives of every animal species on earth, it would have had roughly 14,000 passengers.
Ham argued that the ark wouldn't have had to hold two of every species -- just two of every "kind."
Nye brought up radioactive dating methods and the alleged expansion of the universe to support his model of an earth that is million of years old. Ham was not impressed.
"There are a lot of assumptions when it comes to radioactive dating," he said.
Both men argued that their worldview was foundational to having a proper understanding of science.
Nye pointed out that here in Kentucky -- the state that produced the Creation Museum -- there was no place where a college student could get a degree in nuclear medicine.
"I hope you find that troubling," Nye told the crowd.
Ham said "the only reason we can do" good science is because of carefully crafted natural laws and constants that only an intelligent creator could design.
At one point during the debate, Nye and Ham were confronted with questions from the audience. One of the questions: How did consciousness come from matter?
Nye responded with, "I don't know. That is a great mystery."
"Bill, I want to say that there is a book out there that does document where consciousness comes from," Ham said, referencing the Bible, and adding that he believes man was created "in God's image."
At the end of the debate, a member of the audience asked both men to identify the one thing they place their belief in.
Nye told the audience that science "fills me with joy" and that he is "astonished" that human beings are one of the ways that "the universe knows itself."
"If we abandon all that we've learned...we in the United States will be out-competed by other countries," he warned.
Ham, of course, had a different response.
He told the audience of "a book called the Bible" that speaks of an "infinite God" and, he said, explains the origin of all things. He added that human beings were "separated from God" and in need of a savior -- namely, Jesus Christ.